27 Dec 2013
by J.J. Cooper
A year ago, Bryant McKinnie went from being a backup to being the starting left tackle on a Super Bowl championship team in the span of a few weeks. He only moved into the starting lineup last year in Week 17 after an injury to Jah Reid.
This year, McKinnie is once again starting in Week 17. But this time, he’s even closer to being done as an NFL starter. If the Dolphins make it through Sunday’s throw-em-all-in-a-blender and and see who survives wild card race, McKinnie will probably continue as the team’s starting left tackle through the playoffs -- they really don’t have any other viable option.
But at the end of the season, it’s hard to imagine that McKinnie will land another contract as a projected starter. He’ll turn 35 early next season. He’s had a long history of struggling to keep his weight down and he has some pretty bad tape that teams will see when doing their free agent scouting. He’s more likely to land a job as a swing backup tackle, if he’s willing to play for the limited money that such a role entails.
McKinnie has some bad tape, and this past week was the worst yet. He had a four-sack fiasco against the Bills that left Miami's playoff chances in jeopardy, knocked their starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill out of the lineup and leaves the Jets likely salivating at their chance to throw a variety of speed rushers at McKinnie.
Of the four sacks McKinnie gave up, a few had some caveats. On the first sack he allowed Mario Williams pushed McKinnie back far enough to reach out and grab Tannehill for the sack, but McKinnie was not helped by interior pressure that forced Tannehill to backpedal out of the pocket.
On the second sack, McKinnie was beaten off the snap by aptly named nickelback Nickell Robey, but it’s hard to imagine Anthony Munoz in his prime stopping Robey on a play where he hit the line of scrimmage at full speed on a very well-timed blitz.
The third sack of the day was probably McKinnie’s worst. Jerry Hughes, a bust in Indianapolis who has blossomed in Buffalo, did a good job of using a shoulder dip to get underneath the 6-foot-8 McKinnie’s punch, beating him around the edge for a sack.
The fourth sack was either a disaster or an injustice depending on your point of view. The Bills ran a stunt where defensive tackle Kyle Williams looped outside while Mario Williams looped inside. McKinnie recognized what was happening and tried to hand off Mario to pick up Kyle. But Mario had grabbed McKinnie’s shoulder pad with his right hand and didn’t let go. It was defensive holding, pure and simple. In an attempt to protect his quarterback, McKinnie reached out with his free left hand and grabbed Kyle as he ran by. It didn’t do much to slow down Williams, and McKinnie was flagged for the hold. Williams kept on going, sacked Tannehill, and knocked him out of the game.
So instead of a defensive holding that would have given the Dolphins an automatic first down, McKinnie was penalized and was the goat for letting his quarterback get hurt. Life as an offensive tackle is never easy.
It’s very rare to see a defensive lineman flagged for defensive holding. We already talked about the Bills getting away with a hold that led to Ryan Tannehill getting hurt. The Lions also managed to get away with one that led to a safety.
Defensive end Devin Taylor played the same role that Mario Williams played for the Dolphins. He crashed inside, but reached around with his right arm to grab the shoulder pad of Giants left tackle Will Beatty. He got a good handful of jersey, which made it impossible for Beatty to get free to slide out to pick up defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Fairley got a free run at Giants quarterback Eli Manning, picking up a safety.
Both of these plays seems to be pretty blatant holds, but officials rarely call defensive holding on defensive linemen, so it’s a low-risk, high reward strategy.
It was a good week for quick sacks. Three different sacks took 1.6 seconds or less, led by Robey’s blitz that ran right by McKinnie for a sack in the Bills-Dolphins game.
In the Rams-Bucaneers game, linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar ran right through Bucs running back Bobby Rainey’s block. He hit quarterback Mike Glennon 1.5 seconds after the snap, although it took the unblocked James Laurinaitis to finish off Glennon.
And the 1.6-second sack was a somewhat typical quick sack. Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington came on an A-gap blitz. With no back assigned to blitz pickup and both the center and right guard occupied blocking defensive linemen, Washington flew in unblocked to sack Russell Wilson.
Colin Kaepernick has been a regular in the long sack of the week features. This week, he came by it honestly as a play-action play out of a short-yardage formation failed to fool the Falcons. Kaepernick tried to buy time in the hopes someone would come open, but Stephen Nicholas tripped him up 6.3-seconds after the snap. It was the fifth time this year that Kaepernick has had a sack take six or more seconds.
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